In Surrey you mean…? Err…nope! It’s so dreary today I could cry! I really don’t know if there will be a summer here, but till it arrives (perhaps *if* is a better term) here’s a recipe which reminds me of the warmer months. Grilling (with a good extractor in the kitchen: very important) cheers me up. I don’t know why but it makes me feel better. Most probably because it’s quick and really easy if you can deal with some splatter. If that bothers you, you can get one of those grilling contraptions. But you don’t really need one. The less gadgets, the better.
One of my favourite things, especially when I’m really hungry is a good burger. I like to make the mixture before, place the patties on a tray, cover with cling film, put them in the fridge to cool before any cooking is done. I found that this one of the best ways to keep them intact while on the grill. I add chilli in mine. If you don’t like chilli or are allergic to it just season with a little salt and pepper; you will definitely need some seasoning in this. You can play around as much as you like with a recipe like this, depending on what you love best. As far as the breadcrumbs go, I always keep some handy in the freezer. I hate waste so whenever I have some two/three-day-old bread I whizz it up in a food processor. I either divide the quantity into containers or freezer bags*. Very very simple. This recipe will give you approximately 5 burgers (150g each). But sometimes I make smaller portions which will or course give you more. (For a niftier version, you can make sliders – a trendy name for little hamburgers.) You need:
- 500g lean minced beef
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 6 tablespoons breadcrumbs*
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 – 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (optional but I love it)
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder (for a spicier version try 1 teaspoon chilli flakes)
- ¼ teaspoon mixed spice
- salt and pepper for extra seasoning (especially if you omit the chilli)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- flour, to bind
Throw in all the ingredients, except the flour into a large bowl and mix. The easiest is to use clean hands.
Form the mixture into 5 to 6 patties, about 125g-150g each. (You will eventually eyeball it with practice, but I used to weigh them and still do sometimes.) Bind them on a large tray using some flour, and remove any excess by tapping them lightly between the palms of your hands.
Cover the patties with cling film and place the tray in the fridge to cool. You will find this useful while cooking on the grill. I’ve learned this the hard way!
When you’re ready to party, make sure that the grill is nice and hot and cook the burgers for about 6 minutes on each side. Serve on baps with tomatoes, lettuce, any relish you prefer and/or a thick slab of cheese!
A classic. Enjoy…outside…
First things first: Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good start to the year and also hope that the rest will be better still. Though it can be really depressing. All those parties and with great food during the holidays, then…boom…everything’s gone (except the Christmas spirit of course) and everyone’s back to normal. I bet you heard or even thought the dreadful D word (yes..diet) a million times already, and it’s not three days after New Year’s Day yet.
This is a tricky one I know but we really need some heart-warming food, especially in this cold weather. And let’s face it, dieting doesn’t mean eating for two weeks and starving for the rest of the year. Well, it could be an interpretation of this to some people, but I don’t think it’s the healthiest one. (Oh, and please please please, don’t be mean to others by making them not eat too!) To be honest, after the holidays I don’t crave heavy foods, not even the sweet stuff. Also, lately I’ve had some veggies in the fridge which needed to be either used or thrown away, and you know how much I hate throwing food away if it still can be cooked. I had quite a lot of parsnips and some carrots which were waiting to be made into a nice thick gooey soup.
Mentioning carrots, a friend of mine recently asked me if this season’s pick were sweeter than usual. It’s like eating a whole packet of sweets she said, which made me think back. J made a big batch of carrot soup about a week ago in which I couldn’t help adding loads of fresh pepper. So for now I am definitely off carrots, in large quantities that is! But somehow I love parsnips. Although sweet, they have a hint of spiciness. I’ve read that parsnips are only grown in colder climates, ergo there’s no way I will find them back home, so I intend to make the most of them here. They are good for you anyway…
The following is a recipe for a parsnip soup with a twist. It’s also got some mustard in it which gives it that wintery kick and some paprika for smokiness and is food for the soul. Well that’s how I think of it. This soup is very forgiving so as long as you taste it along the way to adjust the seasoning, it will taste great. Unfortunately I have no alternatives for parsnips, but you’re invited to my place anytime for lunch. Ooops…I have to keep my word now, don’t I?! For this Parsnip, Paprika and Mustard Soup you’ll need:
- 25g butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 450g parsnips, chunkily diced or cubed
- 1 leek, roughly chopped
- 3 medium potatoes, quartered
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1.5 litre vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons wholegrain or Dijon mustard, heaped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- pepper, to taste
- In a medium sized pot heat the oil and butter, then add the parsnips, leeks and potatoes. Stir until the vegetables are coated well, keep an eye on it for around 5 minutes and add the paprika. Stir again.
- Add the stock, let it boil, then leave to simmer for around 20 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Blend the whole lot either with a hand blender, or pour it into a free-standing one to mush it up.
- Now is the time to add the mustard, sugar and pepper and taste it to get the seasoning right. You’ve got it.
Invite 4-6 people for lunch and serve immediately with some fresh crusty bread on the side.
During the first weeks of summer I read somewhere that Rick Stein was publishing a book about the food of Spain, to accompany his series by the same name on BBC2. What a treat! Excellent. I bought it and then…ta-da…I read that he was going to do a book signing in Guildford. Even more…excellent! So I did a thorough read of most of the recipes in the book and counted the days. In the meantime J and I moved to a new place and J’s dad flew in to help us with this move. In all the excitement I got sick. Typical. Not even the flu jab worked. As I resigned myself to the fact that I was only in possession of a mere unsigned copy, J offered to go to the town centre and get it signed for me. So sweet. So as I lay on the couch, fever going up and down driving me crazy, J was having all the fun, standing in a long queue/line, clutching my precious book. Mr. Stein kindly signed my book, commenting to J that it was heavily annotated or something like that. I like Rick’s simple but creative approach to food. Pity I didn’t get to meet him.
So inspired by Rick’s book Spain, I tried an accompaniment – not the usual first recipe to try from a new publication, but it appeared good on paper and I decided to give it a go. It’s not a main meal I think, but it makes a good snack for a BBQ or a picnic – hot or cold, your choice. A very simple but very tasty dish, with some variations peppered here and there. You could leave the pancetta out if you’re vegetarian, but for me it would have that something missing, if you know what I mean. And it’s one way of making J eat more veg! Here it goes.
- 230g green lentils, cooked as per packet instructions. (Don’t throw away the cooking liquid.)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 whole head of garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 smallish onions, peeled and chopped
- 200g carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 100g pancetta or back bacon
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 120ml white wine
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
Cook the lentils, use a sieve on a bowl to reserve the cooking liquid, and set them aside. Pour the olive oil into a wide and shallow pan and warm it through. Add the chopped garlic, onions and carrots and cook over medium heat for around 15 to 20 minutes, when the vegetables are softened.
Add the pancetta or bacon and toss it with the vegetables for 5 minutes. Time to add the paprika, tomatoes and wine, and let everything simmer happily until the liquid is reduced and slightly thickened.
Topple the cooked lentils and 150ml of the reserved liquid into the pan. Add the parsley, some salt and pepper to taste, let these simmer for 5 minutes and serve. Serves 6-8 people easily.